This summer I have had three amazing learning experiences that were each very different, yet they connect to our mission at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. Here is my first pass at a brief overview of the takeaways.
Traverse Conference at the Watershed School in Boulder, CO
Using the local environment for learning – Right from the start we were working with John Weiss from Human Design to consult on their Social Action Machine Project. Starting out on a non-educational project was the perfect way to get the creative juices flowing. This was also a reminder that we need to search for projects for our students that are outside the realm of our walls.
Baking human into everything you do. John Weiss
Project-based learning – Nicole Martin and I joined the Integrating Disciplines Through Real-World Learning session. We were immediately put on a bus and traveled to visit the site of a 6th grade project that involved ecology, economics, government, sociology and many other disciplines. After the group listed their community problems Nicole and I latched on to transportation and traffic in our area. More to come later on our ideas for a schoolwide project on this problem.
Disciplines legitimize each other.
Entrepreneurship – We learned about Startup Weekend, a program for teenagers that is held in cities around the country. Our task was to study the organic food market and pitch a start up. The highlight was our visit to a Whole Foods. We observed and interviewed shoppers in the store. We got a taste of immersing ourselves in the research and empathy process.
Consultivations – Our students are so much more capable than what we typically give them credit for and Meghan Cureton presented how our Innovation Diploma students consulted with an organization on the design of a pocket park. Here’s an article from a local newspaper explaining what the students accomplished.
The goals for participants were:
- Make an impact in an issue alongside several Atlanta nonprofits
- Learn design thinking as a practitioner, rather than in a “classroom” setting
- Model the possibilities and opportunities for doing school differently
The best part of the entire experience was learning the DEEPDT process while working with Refuge Coffee. Refuge is an amazing social business that strives to create community for Clarkston residents. In doing so the company also allows for newly immigrated refugees to earn a living wage and develop skills, including English language. Clarkston has the reputation for being the most diverse square mile in the world. The learning was fantastic and the relationships that we built with the Refuge team were moving.
Pioneer Lab with Education Reimagined in Washington D.C.
Imagine a network of educators and organizations that is focused on transforming education by creating a new paradigm. This is what Education Reimagined is trying to do by organizing educators from around the country to participate in their Pioneer Labs. I was invited to attend the second session of training to prepare for a September gathering. The learning was two fold:
Education Reimagined has created a vision, a new paradigm, for the for the future of education that is Learner Centered and the five elements are listed below.
The second piece of learning was around the change process. It’s fascinating to understand how extremely difficult it is for people to move from one paradigm to another. The most telling example was how medical professionals believed, for 2000 years, that bloodletting was the only way to cure diseases. It took new scientific knowledge and extensive research for medical professionals to shift this paradigm.
Your paradigm is so intrinsic to your mentalprocess that you are hardly aware of itsexistence, until you try to communicate withsomeone with a different paradigm.—DONELLA MEADOWS, THE GLOBAL CITIZEN
The learner-centered paradigm changes our very view of learners themselves.Learners are seen and known as wondrous, curious individuals with vast capabilities and limitless potential. This paradigm recognizes that learning is a lifelongpursuit and that our natural excitement and eagerness to discover and learnshould be fostered throughout our lives, particularly in our earliest years. Thus,in this paradigm, learners are active participants in their learning as they gradu-ally become owners of it, and learning itself is seen as an engaging and excitingprocess. Each child’s interests, passions, dreams, skills, and needs shape his orher learning experience and drive the commitments and actions of the adults andcommunities supporting him or her. (“A Transformational Vision for Education inthe US.” Education Reimagined, 2015. Page 5.)
Learner-centered education isn’t the newest way to “do” education. Nor is it a new“to do” list or set of activities to add onto your work. Because it is a paradigm shift, itactually offers a new worldview and demands a mindset shift. It becomes a new wayto…well, be. And, that changes everything.From It’s a Paradigm Shift. So What? by Kelly Young